Reflections On Michael Stone, Mental Health, And Yoga’s Cult Of Positivity

(YogaDork, August 2017)

It’s over a month now that Michael Stone is gone.

What a strange word that is: gone.

Gone, Gone, Gone beyond Gone utterly beyond

Like many of us, I can’t quite believe it.

Michael’s face keeps popping up on my Facebook feed, and for a split-second my mind thinks it’s a new blog or an unheard podcast or an upcoming retreat, for the briefest moment excited to see what wisdom offering might be around the corner.

And then I remember he is gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha

Gone from suffering into the liberation from suffering.

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Go To Your High School Reunion, Dammit

(Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, July 2017)

My 20th high school reunion is coming up next week.

How did THAT happen? More importantly: Should I go?

It’s in Nebraska, so I’d have to book a flight (with connections), rent a car, haul my kid across time zones, and find something decent to wear. Not to mention all that torturous small talk once I actually get there. As an introvert, trying to catch up on two decades of relative strangers’ lives over cocktail weenies and cheap wine is perhaps my worst nightmare.

There are a million reasons to just blow it off, not the least of which being that reunions in a post-Facebook world yield fewer surprises than they did before. Most of us are familiar with some version of one another’s lives, even if it’s a glossily curated edition.

But there’s a reason Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion became a cult hit. It articulated something most of us don’t say out loud: it can be so damn hard to go back.

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What Masculinity Looks Like

(On Being, July 2015)

In the yoga world, we use the Sanskrit phrase “Sthira Sukham Asanam” to describe the complementary balance of effort and ease, strength and softness necessary in every pose. Sutra 2.46 lays out the way in which each asana (literally, “seat”) should be a kind of relationship, an ongoing conversation between steady, active presence and yielding, relaxed stillness. The combination of the two qualities creates a yin-yang kind of wholeness that is strongly rooted, firm in foundation, confident and stable — and at the same time malleable, easy to adapt, gentle in spirit and undeniable in the face of transition. …

When I met my husband (unsuspecting, in a yoga class), I fell in love with his finely-tuned practice of Sthira Sukham Asanam. A longtime yogi, he was capable of being at once resolute and confident, tender and gentle. He could throw back a beer in one breath and quote Hafiz in the next. …

The most challenging practice has been finding center, grasping at sattva in the moments of sleeplessness, of relentless, bone-breaking parenting. Fumbling to stay calm at the changing table when the little man wriggles off. Struggling not to yell when he refuses to get into his high chair for the fiftieth time. Trying to be tender with one another when we’re both rundown and under-slept and haven’t showered in four days.

The idea is, of course, not to nail every posture (or every diaper change), but to let go and roll with the punches, to allow the sensations — the fear, the anger, the exhaustion — to move through you and to just get out of the way, exhaling into the quiet that’s always there under the chaos, paying attention to how everything is perpetually changing from day to day, moment to moment, breath to breath.

And then it passes.

 

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8 Tips For Officiating A Wedding

(Washington Post, June 2017)

So you’re officiating a wedding. No pressure, right? It’s only someone’s Biggest Day Ever.

Couples are increasingly choosing to have a friend or family member officiate their wedding ceremonies instead of a religious leader or civil servant. According to a recent study from Pew Research Center, 23 percent of U.S. adults describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or nothing in particular. And millennials, those born from 1981 to 1996, are far less religiously observant than the older cohorts. As these millennial marry and the power of organized religion dwindles, this trend will no doubt continue to grow.

Take a deep breath. You’ve got this. Here are some tips and things I’ve learned after officiating weddings in Thailand, California, New Hampshire and New York:

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Snow Day Tips For The Introverted Parent

(Quiet Revolution, January 2018)

We moved to the Pacific Northwest two years ago, and for the first time in my adult (read: parenting) life, I had to deal with snow days.

Snow days were so much fun when you were a kid, right? For me, growing up on the Great Plains, they were such a rare treat. We were hardcore, man. Fierce pioneers, braving the prairie blizzards. I remember going out during recess in South Dakota even when the wind chill was below zero: you just wore your snow pants and hung on for dear life.

But this, friends, this is a different beast. Folks around here aren’t used to snow and ice. Cities don’t have the same kind of infrastructure for dealing with such calamities. So last winter, as we were having an unusual amount of ice and snow, the school systems were buckling. Buses were stuck and delayed; roads were too icy to get kids home from school; days off right and left. And that’s rad when you’re a kid who can hang out and play all day or a solo adult who can chill on the sofa in front of the TV. Not so cool when you’re an introverted work-from-home mama, trying to figure out what the heck to do with tiny energetic humans all day long.

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How I (Gently) Weaned My Breastfeeding Toddler

(Parents Magazine, January 2018)

I weaned my son at 34 months.

Yep, that’s right: two months shy of age three.

I never intended to nurse that long. God, no. When my son was six months old, I officiated the wedding of two dear students. A mutual friend at the ceremony told me laughingly, radiantly, that her mother had nursed her until she was three.

I thought to myself, “HELL NO.”

Yet, there we were.

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Washing The Dishes, Waiting For Death

(Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, August 2016)

The first time I really “got” meditation, I was standing at my kitchen sink washing dishes.

My father was dying. Cancer.

Hospice bed in the living room-style cancer.

I’d flown back to Nebraska to see him one last time, to hold his hand, say goodbye.

Now, the haunting question of when.

I was 26, living in a 100-year-old flat in San Francisco, bartending my way through grad school, subsisting on coffee and cocktails. Standing there at the sink, I could hear the young couple upstairs vacuuming, the Chinese family across the alley clattering pans, and the cable car clanging one block over on California Street.

My mind was obsessively circling the drain.

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The Beauty Of Being An ‘Okay’ Parent, And Five Ways To Get There

(Washington Post, March 2017)

Let’s be honest: Parenting in the 21st century — the age of the curated childhood — is daunting. Parents constantly feel like they should be doing more.

I grew up in South Dakota and Nebraska, the second of four kids, where my parents — a Lutheran pastor and a music teacher — were too busy working and keeping us fed and clothed to hover. We had PBS, a house full of books and music, a big garden, church on Sundays and room to roam. They instilled simple values I’ll always be grateful for and I strive to emulate as a parent. My husband and I moved to Portland, Ore., last year from San Francisco, where parenting felt like an elite competitive sport. I adore the Bay Area, but as a new mother, I wanted to escape the suffocating pressure to produce a privileged champion specimen.

I’m a recovering Type-A perfectionist. As a kid, I was always the best at everything I did. I was anxious about having children because I knew I was at risk of pressuring myself to have perfect little high-achievers. I didn’t want to raise the kind of child who felt like he had to be the best at everything, or start prepping him for college in third grade.

One of my greatest accomplishments as an adult has been chilling the heck out and letting myself be okay with being average. I see no need for personal chauffeurs, overpriced tutors or hardcore chess tournaments. As a child of the heartland, it’s important to me that my son realize that not everybody’s family flies a private plane or uses “summers” as a verb.

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HomeBody: Movement Meets Buddha Nature

(InDance, October 2015)

PICTURE A BUDDHIST. What comes to mind? A red-robed monk or nun sitting patiently on a cushion, lips gently smiling, eyes closed, legs crossed in Lotus Pose?

Or perhaps you picture Tina Turner, or Richard Gere, or another famous pop culture Buddhist?

For most of us, it’s definitely not an athletic, barefoot, nude-leotard-clad dancer bounding elegantly across the floor on a brightly-lit stage.

San Francisco-based choreographer and dance filmmaker Claudia Anata Hubiak’s contemporary dance company, The Anata Project, suggests an unconventional new Buddhist prototype. Since 2011, inspired by the Tibetan Buddhist concept of anata (“egolessness,” or the notion that there is no such thing as a permanent, unchanging self), The Anata Project has produced dances and dance films that take a genuine and unflinching look into the unguarded mind and heart. Its interdisciplinary conceptual foundation stands at the cutting edge of the meditative melding of body and spirit, seeking to break new ground in the worlds of modern dance, mindful embodiment, and Buddhist art.

 

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